5 Keys to Beating the Eagles

The Dallas Cowboys are coming off an impressive win over the Tennessee Titans, one of the top teams in the AFC. What has to happen for the Boys to pick up a victory over NFC East rival Philadelphia? Well, a lot actually. Simply put, the Eagles have owned the Cowboys the last two seasons.

After an impressive win over the Washington Redskins Monday night, the Philadelphia Eagles have to be feeling a lot better about themselves. After all, Donovan McNabb and company actually lost to the Tennessee Titans after blowing a 14-point halftime lead just two weeks ago.

Meanwhile the Cowboys have now officially gotten off the roller coaster ride that has been the first two weeks of the season. A humiliating loss to the expansion Houston Texans combined with an 8-point win over Tennessee still leaves most experts still bewildered, and understandably so.

Entering this week's game, the Cowboys are 9 point underdogs, and even though the Eagles have claimed the last 4 wins in this series, anything can happen in the National Football League. Here are our 5 keys to a Cowboys upset win in Philadelphia this week.

Protection Across the Board
In the past, the Eagles have exploited the Cowboys in almost every faucet of the game, but the stat that jumps at you the most is turnovers. Fumbles, interceptions, and poor special teams play have haunted America's Team in the last 4 meetings between these two teams.

In order for the Cowboys to have a chance Sunday, two things must happen right off the bat. One, the Cowboys offensive line must protect Quincy Carter. Two, the entire team must protect the football as if their life depended on it, because it does- at least in terms of winning the game. In the last four games played against Philadelphia, the Cowboys have turned the ball over 13 times, leading to an average score of 33-12.

Part of the problem lies in poor decision making from the quarterback position which is also a reflection of poor protection from the offensive line. If Quincy Carter is hassled all evening long like he was in Houston, there won't be defensive backs batting down passes, they'll be running back interceptions for touchdowns.

"The handling of the blitz package they run and the ability not to turn the football over is the key," said head coach Dave Campo yesterday. "They will load up against the run, blitz and leave the corners out there one-on-one almost like Tennessee did."

If Carter has time, and that's a big if, this offense should be able to put enough plays together to keep this one close. If not, look out.

Pressure, Pressure, & More Pressure
The Cowboys enter Sunday's game at Philadelphia ranked third in the league in sacks with 9. Nothing could help jumpstart the confidence of this team more than by getting pressure on Donovan McNabb and forcing him into making poor decisions with the football. McNabb, notorious for making big plays on the ground, must be contained if he's unable to find his receivers downfield.

La'Roi Glover can expect to see double teams from now through the rest of the season, which should continue to open the door for fellow defensive lineman Greg Ellis, who has 3 sacks through his first 2 games. The ability for this unit to contain McNabb and apply pressure when the situation warrants will go a long way in helping contain the explosive offense of the Philadelphia Eagles.

More Big Plays Please
Quincy Carter's 38-yard touchdown pass to Joey Galloway last week was a thing of beauty. Playing against a team that likes to blitz, the opportunity for the long ball will be there once again this week.

"If their blitzing game is going well, they can break your will, but at the same time they'll leave a lot of their corners out there on an island and we have to take advantage of that this week," said Campo.

The onus will continue to come down on the offensive line. If Carter has time to throw the football the opportunity will be there to connect on a few long passes. The Eagles' corners are big and physical, but Joey Galloway and Antonio Bryant can exploit their size with pure speed and tight routes.

Defensively, the Cowboys must continue to do enforce their will on the opposition. Dexter Coakley's 52-yard interception return for a touchdown completely changed the momentum in Sunday's win over Tennessee. Another play like that would go a long way in a potential road win over the Eagles.

Step it Up, Special Teams
We've said this week in and week out, and there's no change this week. Billy Cundiff, Reggie Swinton, or Ken-Yon Rambo- somebody needs to do something spectacular on Sunday to provide a spark for this team. The most likely candidate might be none other than rookie placekicker Billy Cundiff. The Eagles defense is tough, especially in the redzone, just ask the high-flying Washington Redskins if you don't buy into that comment.

If Philadelphia's defense is able to keep the Cowboys from scoring touchdowns, it will be up to Cundiff to keep this one close. He'll need to be perfect Sunday if the Cowboys are going to win.

Make it an Ugly One
Why not? The Cowboys simply don't have the ability to outscore the Philadelphia Eagles, at least not yet. Once again, it will be up the defense to make plays, keep the score low, and provide the offense with good field position.

If Philadelphia puts up more than 21 points- they'll likely win this game handily, but if La'Roi Glover and company can keep Donovan McNabb in check, and Quincy Carter and the offense don't turn the ball over, this one will stay close through the 4th quarter. A 14-10, or 17-13 type of game will be the order of the day if the Cowboys are going to pull out the upset.

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